Louisa Ponnampalam is the chair and co-founder of the MareCet Research Organization, Malaysia’s first nonprofit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of marine mammals and their environment. She is also a research fellow at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.
For her Pew fellowship, Ponnampalam conducted research to overcome knowledge gaps about the ecology and status of dugongs and their seagrass habitats along the Johor east coast and adjacent islands in southern Peninsular Malaysia. She used aerial and acoustic survey methods to further study the distribution, relative abundance, movement, and habitat-use patterns of dugongs. Ponnampalam and her team analyzed the sediments and seagrasses for contaminants to assess the risks posed to the dugongs by environmental pollutants in the environment, mapped seagrass habitats, and conducted socioeconomic studies of the local communities and stakeholders in the area.
The results of the project are being used to encourage the planning and establishment of a dugong and seagrass protected area, which would provide valuable habitat for the survival of endangered dugongs in Peninsular Malaysia. This protected area would also contribute to Malaysia’s obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which requires that 10 percent of the marine environment, particularly areas relating to threatened species, be protected by 2020, and those laid out in Malaysia’s Dugong National Plan of Action and National Policy on Biological Diversity 2015-2025.
To learn more about Ponnampalam and her work, visit http://marecet.org/about/meet-the-team.